PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Now 15-months after Hurricane Michael, a well-known Bay County church is stepping into their sanctuary once again for the first time.
The storm impacted many churches in its path, including Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City.
Senior Pastor of the church, Dr. Steven Kyle says all three of their campuses were hit hard by the storm.
“The storm came through and damaged every building that we have on the main campus. One of them still isn’t able to be used,” Kyle said.
Kyle says just like everyone else in the storm’s path, the damage didn’t stop on the outside of the facility.
“It wasn’t necessarily the initial damage that caused such widespread problems, it was like everyone else, the two weeks electricity and then the mold starts growing and so basically we almost had to gut this entire campus which is huge.”
The main campus sits on Highway 231 near East Avenue. Kyle says though, his members never missed a Sunday together.
“So the Sunday after the hurricane, we had a couple of hundred folks and we just met in the field across the street from our main campus here, and then the second week, one of our members went and purchased us a big circus tent and the second week we met under a tent.”
After that, the church met inside the Fine Arts building at Mosley High School while renovations to the front of their main campus were underway.
They started using the fellowship hall for service but it only fit a fraction of people the worship center did. Kyle said they started holding three services each Sunday to accommodate everyone but gathering each week was important for healing.
“The church family is so important because you do life together, you encourage each other, you pray for each other. It’s kind of a sounding board and you have folks of when like I like to say, when you need a loving kick in the pants, they’re there to do that but also it’s just to lean on each other and so for us to continue to meet and not have to stop doing that was so key.”
On Sunday though, the churchgoers were able to walk in their worship center for the first time since the storm.
“We’re excited today to get back to one service but it’s just a special thing to get everybody together.”
Even though the physical building doesn’t define the church, having the construction project done still brings a level of comfort.
“We try to downplay the buildings but we also understand in the climate we live in with all the massive destruction, it’s kind of like before the hurricane, you plant a tree in your yard and say ‘oh yeah I’ve got a tree.’ After the hurricane, you’re like ‘oh we have a tree!’ ya know, it just means so much more so even though we know the buildings are not the church, it’s just a healing tool that God has given us.”
The church held one service on Sunday to have everyone together but will continue their normal two services next week.
You can watch sermons each week on News 13 every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
To learn more about the church, click here.